Q&A: North Carolina media conference

Published on Thursday, March 16, 2017

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Theo Pinson

Theo Pinson


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Justin Jackson

Justin Jackson


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North Carolina Head Coach Roy Williams

North Carolina Head Coach Roy Williams


University of North Carolina media conference

Friday's game

4 p.m., No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 16 Texas Southern, TNT

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by North Carolina student-athletes Justin Jackson and Theo Pinson.

Q. Nonsensical question for you, the hats. You sent out that photo. I already spoke to Shea up in New York about making them. How did you guys come about choosing the design you did? And how do you feel now that you have them?

THEO PINSON: Shea has been wearing those hats all year. And they were cool. Every hat he has is really cool. So Shea, you can make it for the team. And he said, yeah, that would be awesome. He's been working his butt off to get it ready for the tournament.

And all we really did was pick out the design of how like he would mold the hat and the color. And he did everything else. Everything on the hat was his idea. I mean, the dude has a gift.

JUSTIN JACKSON: Yeah, I'm not a very artsy person. So I just told him to do whatever style he felt fit me best. But, yeah, he put in so much time. I mean, he stayed up late doing it. Anytime he had free time he was at the gym working on them. So they did a great job and like Theo said, he's got a gift.

Q. Do you feel you can carry them off? Does it make you feel like a man when you're wearing?

JUSTIN JACKSON: Yeah, gives you a different type of confidence, I guess, to be able to pull it off. We're blessed to have him.

THEO PINSON: I look great in it.

Q. Justin, Roy was telling us the other day that he had made it a point to have a couple of conversations with you since Brooklyn, just about your shooting and maybe trying to get your confidence back. Have those been helpful? And what did you think about those conversations?

JUSTIN JACKSON: Yes, sat with Coach in his office and talked to him a little bit. My confidence isn't gone. I mean, it was four games that I have not shot the ball well. And that's all it is. And so for me, still going to shoot the ball the same way, still going to be aggressive, still going to do everything I've been doing all year.

It's not like all of a sudden the world is ending. And I got in the gym a bunch after the ACC Tournament. And I've been doing the same exact things I've been doing all year.

And so talking to him, obviously, he just wanted to reiterate that he still has the same confidence in me and the coaching staff. I know my teammates have the same confidence in me, but the coaching staff, they still feel the same exact way about me and still want me to do the exact same things I was doing. So there's no change. Just gotta get back to working on it.

Q. Justin, looking at the roster, Texas Southern has three Houston guys on there. Do you know any of them? Have you played against any of them, and what can you tell us about Texas Southern?

JUSTIN JACKSON: Texas Southern is in Houston, if I can remember right. So I mean that was right down the road from where I used to work out all the time. I know the coach pretty well.

It's going to be a fun game. Obviously they're here for a reason. So we've gotta go in there and play as hard as we possibly can. Like you said, there's a bunch of guys from Houston that are there.

Actually one of my teammates because one of the ones that actually left to go for the football track, but it's a really good team. They just happen to be from Houston.

Q. Do you know any of their guys?

JUSTIN JACKSON: I don't. If I went back and actually tried to think through some of the guys on the team, I might. But I haven't really done a ton of research as far as like who the people are and stuff like that.

Q. You've got a long ways to go, but if you guys end up playing Duke in the finals, how thrilling would that be for you? What would that mean for each of you guys?

THEO PINSON: It will be awesome. That means we're in the national championship, first of all. I mean, it's a long way to go. I can't even think about Duke right now. Right now, honestly, I'm going to focus on tomorrow. But that would be one game that everybody will be watching.

Q. For both of you, at tournament time, how much is it about focusing on your game, your game plan as opposed to scouting the other team and knowing what their tendencies are?

THEO PINSON: I think it's a little easier to focus on what you have been doing all year. You know, it's different when you come from conference play. Everybody knows what you're doing. And once you go into tournament play, the team you're playing most likely hasn't played against you for a long time or whatever. And they won't be accustomed to what we do and stuff like that. And we won't be accustomed to them also.

So, I mean, it's about Xs and Os at some point. But at the same time you want to continue to do what you do. And we're really trying to -- we're just trying to focus on what we do offensively and defensively.

JUSTIN JACKSON: I think to piggyback off what Theo said, we're playing against a team that obviously hasn't seen us play all year, and we haven't seen them play all year. And so it's a little more fun. Playing in the ACC, I mean, the teams, they know every tendency you have they know every single player that you have.

So for us, we have to go in there, Coach kept reiterating the fact that they haven't seen us all year, so we have to do the things we know make us successful. And so that's where to draw up plays, do all the little things that against teams in the ACC they might be able to read that out, but against teams that maybe didn't see us all year, maybe it will work out. So for us, it's focusing on us and making sure to focus on the new team we're playing as well.

Q. Tell me a little bit about the cowboy hats. Whose idea was it, and kind of some background?

THEO PINSON: Our teammate, Shea Rush, beginning of the year he started wearing hats. Actually every road trip he's been wearing a hat. And he always had different designs and stuff. We was like, Shea, could you make a hat for the whole team and the coaches? And he said he was all for it.

And he's been working on it since. I don't even know when. But he's been working countless hours to just get it ready for the tournament. And they were finally done yesterday. And we wore it on the plane. And we're going to sport them as long as we go.

Q. What's the reaction you got from people on the plane, and is it kind of like a team bonding thing to help you relax going into the tournament?

THEO PINSON: No, I mean I guess you could say that. We just like the hats. And he spent so much time wearing them, if you don't wear them, it's selfish.

But every hat is cool. And we were all ready to get them. And really proud -- I'm really proud of Shea what he did for the team. He really cared about it a lot and we did also.

Q. Theo, now that you're a starter and you're invited up to the podium, have you designated a designated press conference crasher this year?

THEO PINSON: It's about time I've been up here. I'm just playing. (Laughter). But I mean, it's cool.

Q. In your losses Joel has kind of struggled. How important, obviously, is he to your team, and does he kind of understand that, I'm sure?

JUSTIN JACKSON: I'll take that one. Joel knows that he's a huge part of our team. In those games that we lost he didn't go out there and say, I'm going to struggle tonight.

Everybody has bad games. Everybody struggles. Everybody, the ball doesn't fall in the hoop the same way every single game.

So unfortunately when a big-time player for a team might struggle one night, it might hurt the whole team.

But at the end of the day even those games that we lost it wasn't on him. But Joel, he definitely has the same confidence that he's always had. He's the same exact Joel Berry that everybody's talked about, everybody's praised. And he's definitely deserving of all of that praise and he's going to go out there and play it like whenever the game starts tomorrow.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you. We're joined by Coach Williams.

Q. Coach, in your losses Joel has struggled. Have you seen any kind of common theme in those games where he hasn't been at his best? We all know obviously how important he is to your success?

COACH WILLIAMS: Yeah, usually to break it down even as strictly as you can, the ball doesn't go in the basket for him. He hasn't had many of those games where people use the word struggle where his shot has gone in or he's gotten in foul trouble.

But he's extremely important. It's sort of like -- you know, in football it's only one of 11 guys; in basketball, it's one of five. If that one of five happens to be your point guard I think it's exaggerated even more. So he sets the line of our defense. He's a tremendous outside shooter. He pushes the pace. He does all those kind of things. And when it's not going well for him, it is a big loss.

Q. What did you think of the cowboy hats?

COACH WILLIAMS: I didn't necessarily think they were cowboy hats. Is that what you think they are?

Q. What did you think of the hats?

COACH WILLIAMS: Could be Mafia hats. Who knows? I like 'em. I've got one. We're going to have a team picture made today with everybody -- we'll have a team picture today with everybody, coaches included, with the hats. I don't look good in a hat at all, may not look good anyway, but I know I don't look good in a hat. But I'm going to try to put mine on. He asked me what color, what band. All that stuff. Hats by Shea. It's a pretty neat deal.

Q. You've obviously been previously outspoken on many occasions about the HB2 stuff. Has that ship sailed now that you're here, or are you conscious of it being here?

COACH WILLIAMS: I still think I'm conscious of it being here because I'm afraid what's going to happen in the next few years. I hope to coach a little bit longer.

I hope this is not my last hoorah kind of thing. I'm very sad, very disappointed about the whole thing, what apparently is something that's really, really hard to change.

But people in Greenville have been great. We already practiced today at the school right out of town. And they were great. I asked them if they painted their floor trim Carolina blue because we came and, no, that was their colors. It bothers me. It's really something. It's very, very sad to me, to be honest with you. It's one of the best press conferences I've ever been to.

Q. How much of an inconvenience is it really to be a No. 1 seed and kind of have to go on the road like this?

COACH WILLIAMS: I don't really look at it like that. I love to, when I was at Kansas, playing close to home and North Carolina playing close to home. If I can't play close to home I say give me the warmest place, because I'm tired of the wintertime.

But I don't really look at it like that. I just think, again, sad is the commentary I'd probably use, the word I would use, because the people in the state of North Carolina and the kids in the state of North Carolina aren't getting the opportunities that we've had in the past. And I think that's the biggest thing with me right there. It's just it's not the way I'd like for it to be.

Q. One question on Jayson Tatum, you've seen him quite a bit in the last month or so, and he's really taken off since then. What do you think has been the difference with him? And did you notice -- even the first game against you guys where he kind of went off in the second half as a turning point for him -- what makes him so good this last month?

COACH WILLIAMS: I think with every freshman you have no idea when the light bulb is going to go on. The more gifted you are you hope it goes on a lot quicker if you're their coach.

I've recruited Jayson very hard, saw him play tons of times. The injury -- I apologize I can't remember what his injury was, I know he missed some time early -- so it's probably getting healthy is the biggest thing, the familiarity and then being all of a sudden to able to do things that he was able to do in high school gave him more confidence. But I think it's just father time gave him a little bit of help getting over the injuries, and maybe when he did get started in there, it was a little bit later than everybody else. So he may have fresher legs now too, but I just think getting healthy was probably the biggest thing from the outside looking in.

Q. What problems does Texas Southern present?

COACH WILLIAMS: Looking, first of all, it's scary when someone -- I'm going to miss this, I probably shouldn't say this -- 19 out of the last 21 games or something like that. Played 16 straight games on the road. I've known Mike a long time. He was an assistant coach at Indiana and head coach at Indiana.

I think taking the road on the team like that to help them financially and probably taught them some tough love kind of thing with the adversity they faced.

You look at them, they've got four starters averaging double figures, and I think Marvin's like 9.6. So they're a balanced team. Trey Jefferson, the speed and quickness that he does things with, -Lofton, the things he does to you inside/outside, averages six or seven free throws a game.

So it's the kind of team that I don't like to play because everybody scores, not just one guy. I think it's always a little easier to guard when only -- the team only has one guy to score unless it's like Malik did us in Vegas when he got 47.

They don't mind a fast pace, so I know our pace isn't going to bother them. They play man-to-man. They know who they are. They know their strengths, know their weaknesses. There's a reason they're here. When you go through league play and only lose twice and then turn around and win your conference tournament again, that's pretty impressive. There's a lot of things, there's not just one that jumps out.

Q. You were talking about freshmen to begin with but in particular Seventh Woods. I was just talking to him. He said in the beginning he battled confidence issues because a kid like him was making such a big impact. How have you brought him along to make him a more confident player to come off the bench to contribute?

COACH WILLIAMS: I haven't made him a confident player. I wish I could have done a better job. But the biggest thing with Seventh is he's been battling injuries since the end of his senior year in high school. He got hurt at the end of his senior year, didn't play in many of the all-star games or anything in the spring because he was hurt.

Came to Chapel Hill in the summer and went to one session of summer school, then starts practice -- we played, I can't tell you when it was, but we played quite a few games. I said, on a scale of one to ten where's your body?

He said five or six. I know a month or so ago we got it up to an eight. When you're a freshman, No. 1, point guard, No. 2, somebody throws a lot of things at you if they play the way we do. So we've thrown a lot of things at him mentally.

Then the biggest thing is that he wasn't as healthy as we needed him to be and as he wanted to be, because when he's healthy he's got a gear that a lot of people don't have.

And so just recently we've started seeing Seventh do the things that we thought he could do all along. But because of his body and aches and pains and not being healthy, he lost some of his confidence there, and I haven't been able to get him back to where I'd like for him to be confidence-wise.

But I say this, and I believe it other than his mom and his dad, nobody thinks he's going to be as good a player as Roy Williams does.

Q. With the way the last year ended, what kind of motivation has that served, especially now that tournament time is here?

COACH WILLIAMS: I think it's two ways. The way that last year ended, meaning the final shot that we lost the national championship game, I'm hoping that motivated them. And we talked about it, providing some motivation or fuel to work extremely hard in the offseason. And then when practice started, I said, it's motivation for that reason and it's motivation because what we did last year was great.

Everybody in the country would have loved to have done what we did last year. There was only one team that enjoyed it more than we did. So I think just for me, talking to the kids and reminding them how much fun it was last year, let's try to do that again.

So I think we've used it as motivation a little bit. But kids maybe not be driven as old guys like me because of something that happened. They may just want it because they want it themselves and that's okay. But I do try to remind them how much fun we had last year also, not just the hurt of the last shot.

Q. I wanted to not talk about tomorrow especially but 32 years we've never had a 16 beat a 1. Is it going to happen or is it close to happening at some point?

COACH WILLIAMS: Who knows. I'll tell you what. Every coach of the No. 1 always worries like the Dickens about it the night before. It's something you always think about.

I forget what year it was but I'm going to guess 2002, when I was at Kansas, we were right there. We were a 1 seed in St. Louis playing against Holy Cross.

And Kirk Hinrich got hurt during the course of the game. We were right there starting to make history and the kids made some big plays down the stretch and we ended up winning the game.

Yeah, I'd say it's probably going to. That's just the way I look at it. If I'm a 1 seed let's just put it off for another year. If I were a 2 seed, I wouldn't care. Probably happy (laughter). Get it out of my way.






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